Three Alternatives to Microsoft Word

Three Alternatives to Microsoft Word

Somebody called me crazy the other day for not having Microsoft Office, specifically, Microsoft Word, on my PC. Maybe I am. Or maybe not! On one hand, it seems as if almost every small business process today involves the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc). On the other hand, I have done just fine for the past three years without using Microsoft Word. Now, I am not some kind of anti-Microsoft freak. I just try to be as practical and open-minded as possible. Bottom line for me -- I only need about 5% of the features that Microsoft Word offers to run my business. The other 95% just makes the program bloated, confusing, and slow. Oh yeah, and expensive. When you run a small business, you count every penny. I know shelling out $200 - $400 is not going to kill my business. But For me, I just can't justify it, when there are other products out there that have the features I need -- for free. Below are three alternatives that I currently use.

  • OpenOffice Suite (http://www.openoffice.org) I started using OpenOffice about three years ago when the laptop that my previous employer purchased only came with a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office. I started to investigate some alternatives and found OpenOffice. OpenOffice is a complete office suite that offers virutally the same feature sets as the Microsoft Suite. It is an Open Source project and is pretty much compatible with MS Office.I use it daily to open up client documents (Word and Excel). I can even create new documents and save them in the Word "doc" format. If you are looking for lots of features, OpenOffice is a great product. However, it's drawback is just that -- in it's attempt to match MS Office feature-for-feature, it is starting to become somewhat bloated and bulky as well.
  • AbiWord (http://www.abisource.com). If you are looking for a fast, simple (and free!) Word Processor with all of the imprtant features that you use daily, then this AbiWord is a great little package for you! I stumbled across it when I was getting a little too impatient with OpenOffice. AbiWord is fast-loading and very easy to use.Let's face it, most of what we want to do with a word processor is to quickly create simple documents that have some basic formatting, and move on with our day. AbiWord is perfect for that. There are no frills here -- it is a stand-alone Word Processor. However, it does have do Templates and Mail-Merge -- two of those advance features that I do require. The only drawback I've found is when I try to open a document from a client which is based upon a Word Template -- sometimes it just comes up blank.
  • Writely (http://docs.google.com). When I discovered this online Word Processor, it was called Writely. Recently purchased by Google, it is now simply called "Google Docs & Spreadsheets). I must admit that this concept of online applications is intriguing to me. I can compose a document in Writely and then access it anywhere easily. Documents can even be shared so that others can contribute to the content remotely. Neat concept.The feature set of Google Docs/Writely, is very basic. However, it is reliable, very fast and has some great potential. It's not quite ready to be a business application yet, but will be soon. Here's how I use it. As a volunteer youth leader at my church, I will use Writely to compose my lesson plans here at home. And when I arrive onsite at the church, I can pull them up on the laptop to make copies for everybody. Theoretically, I could start a lesson plan concept and then open it up to the entire team to contribute their ideas and content (I haven't done this yet).
So there you go! Three free alternatives to Microsoft Word.

Posted: 2007-03-01


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